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A Q&A with Gregory Luft, Academic Dean for the Spring 2019 Voyage
Say hello to Professor Greg Luft who will sail on his first Semester at Sea voyage as the Spring 2019 Academic Dean. Dr. Luft chairs the Journalism and Media Communication department at Colorado State University, where he completed his undergraduate degree. Greg was named a Colorado State University best teacher in 2013!
Dr. Luft’s professional work before and during his academic career includes television news reporting, producing, and anchoring; documentary, educational, and corporate video production; and freelance video journalism. As a journalist, Dr. Luft has traveled regionally, nationally, and internationally, covering a wide range of topics and events. His independent productions have been used in more than 400 colleges and universities all over the world.
Find out more about Academic Dean Greg Luft in his Q&A about the upcoming voyage.
Q: Could you describe what the role of an academic dean is? What does your day-to-day look like on the voyage?
The Academic Dean is involved with the hiring of faculty and staff positions, as well as curriculum development for their voyage. Beyond that, the academic dean is a point of contact for hiring Interpret Lecturers, is in charge of scheduling evening seminars, and helping to conduct faculty/staff orientation on the ship. Finally, the AD is a point of contact for faculty on the ship to deal with problems, opportunities, and other academic matters as the voyage progresses.
Q: Why did you decide to get involved with Semester at Sea?
I have known about the program for some time through several friends who were SAS leaders, as well as one of my colleagues in my own department, who has sailed twice. When the organization partnered with CSU, I began talking to staff about potential opportunities, and the end result was my current appointment.
Q: How is a shipboard learning community like Semester at Sea different from other academic communities, such as the CSU campus where you currently work?
The shipboard community is like having a full college campus packed into a flexible, mobile campus. All services normally found on a campus must be offered on the ship, ranging from high-quality academic programming, extracurricular activities, comfortable living quarters, good food, and a managed environment that meets the diverse needs of students, faculty, and staff. Classrooms have to be adapted, schedules have to work around port stops, and it’s important for everyone to have a shared learning experience, which is where the Global Studies course comes in. There’s also a lot of be concerned about as students disembark in ports and take off on adventures both known and unknown, but while that’s something to plan for an exercise caution with, it’s also one of the best parts of the learning experience.
Q: Your background is in journalism. What role does storytelling and documenting play on a program like Semester at Sea?
It’s critical. It’s not just about telling one story, but rather it’s an individual story for each student, faculty member, staff member, and lifelong learner on the voyage. There are many stories to tell and not enough time or space to tell them all but through social media, cameras, computers, and other tools, every person has the chance to create their own story, and share it widely should they choose to. The great thing about everyone having the ability to create their own media is that each person will have a much more thorough record of their time, and that makes the voyage more valuable over a much longer period of time.
Q: As the academic dean on the ship, what is your advice for students sailing on this year’s voyage?
Come prepared to work in classes, and to engage in a positive way with anyone you see on the ship. Be brave, but cautious in port. Never travel alone, keep your eyes open, be aware of your surroundings, don’t have so much fun that you put yourself in a compromising position, and wake up each day with a plan to try something new.
Q: Like many students, this is your first voyage with Semester at Sea. How are you feeling about the adventure ahead?
I feel great, and as prepared as possible under the circumstances. I was fortunate enough to sail from Ensenada to Honolulu in January 2017, and from Hamburg to Spain this fall, so I have had enough of a taste of the adventure to know that it’s real and it’s always interesting. I haven’t had time yet to start worrying about any potential challenges, so I’m feeling nothing but excitement!
Q: As an avid traveler yourself, what do you think will be the biggest takeaway for students on the voyage?
I think the biggest takeaway for students is that they will end the voyage feeling much more comfortable encountering the unknown. This will come from a combination of the knowledge gained on the ship about ports, people, oceans, and nations along the way, but also from what will happen every time they walk off the ship and into a new environment. The stimulation and information gathering that happens naturally in that environment is a matter of engaging the senses, and it’s impossible not to do that.
Q: What are you looking forward to most during this voyage?
I am looking forward most to gaining a broader view of the nations and people we will encounter, and doing so in the company of my daughter, Emily, as well as current friends who will be on the ship, and among the many new people all of us will meet during the semester.